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Connecting Allen C120 to PA system

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  • Connecting Allen C120 to PA system

    Our Allen C120 is connected to 5 speakers in our current building. In our new building we would like to hook the organ into the Main PA. Is there a place to tap full sound out of the console? Does all sound produced go into the internal speakers. If so, we could attenuate those leads to go into PA. Any suggestions?

  • #2

    I wish I could accurately convey to you how bad an idea that is, for the following reasons:
    1. Allen used (and probably still uses) stepping amplifiers, which change signal levels based on what is connected to its outputs. It becomes extremely difficult to control the sound levels in that situation. Not only that, the organ's amplifiers can burn out due to the added load. If you connect the signal elsewhere, it can cause failure of the organ's internal electronics.
    2. The organist no longer has control of the sound/volume of the organ (more on that later).
    3. You have the speakers you need: Use them! PA speakers generally have difficulty reproducing the entire frequency range an organ puts out. The organ goes below–and above the frequency range of the entire orchestra. Don't handicap it by connecting it to a PA system, generally not designed for sustained extreme frequencies on both ends of the spectrum simultaneously.
    Cautionary tale here. At Christmas time I accompanied a violin duet at my wife's church. They provided a microphone for the violins, and the grand piano has a microphone inside the piano. I played softly and accompanied as I usually would. When my wife realized the violins were not being heard, she moved off microphone in an attempt to have the other violinist (melody) heard. People complained afterward, all they could hear was the piano. Their sound guy is generally very good, but I guess he was having an "off" night.

    Are all your sound people the same? Will you have one sound person leave the church, and another come in? What will you do when a teenager is on the sound board, and the organ can't be heard because (s)he hasn't turned on the channel(s) yet? I'm guessing the organ wasn't given much consideration in the design of the new church if the church has already been built and you're only now deciding what to do with the organ's sound.

    The organ can be connected, but the results will vary. Best of luck accomplishing what you want and in the future of your music program.

    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos


    • #3
      From a guy with 40+ years experience in the organ business, selling, installing, servicing, consulting, and PLAYING organs in churches -- just say "no." For all the reasons Michael mentions and many more. It's hard to emphasize just what a bad idea this is, and I realize that today many churches are under the impression that (1) you have bought a million-dollar sound system that is far superior to those dinky amps and antique speakers in that old organ, so why not just bypass that old stuff? And (2) the organ will "blend" and "balance" better with other instruments, microphoned vocalists, etc., if it is mixed into the same sound system with them.

      Please don't fall for any of that! As Lutherans, you are heirs to a marvelous worship heritage and history, adorned with the singing of magnificent hymns and chorales, a lovely liturgical tradition using organ-prompted responses and so on. Believe me -- none of those will be helped by having the organ mixed into your sound system. In fact, every single one of those pieces of your musical heritage will be deeply degraded.

      An organ, like a concert grand piano or a fine violin or like the massive effect of 50 players in an orchestra, represents an acoustic source that needs to "live" in the space in which it is produced and enjoyed. No orchestra worth its salt anywhere in the world would sit still for a sound crew coming in to mike up the individual instruments, mix them on some console at the back of the room, and play everybody's sound all crammed together through the house speakers, no matter how fine they are! And no organist is going to want to play an organ that is under the control of a sound console operator who will have the power -- under the guise of "balancing" or "blending" -- to turn up the volume on his or her soft passages, or turn it down on his or her loud passages, and thus totally ruin the musical effects of organ music that calls for a wide dynamic range.

      Besides these artistic objections, the fact remains that organs have totally different requirements for speaker placement. A sound system is designed to project sound directly at the ears of the listeners. Sound system designers work hard to avoid letting the speaker output bounce off any surface. They want it only to be heard exactly as it comes out of the speakers.

      ORGAN installers do the exact opposite with speakers. We WANT the sound to bounce off as many surfaces in the room as possible. Organ speakers are sometimes installed so that they point at the ceiling or at the back of the speaker chamber so the listeners in the room will hear primarily REFLECTED sound rather than direct sound. These reflections make the sound "bloom" -- a hard to describe effect that includes broadening the perceived sound source, adding subtle intentional delays, adding a gentle sustain to the tone, sweetening the tonal balance. Though hard to describe, anyone can clearly hear the difference between "bloomed" and "un-bloomed" organ tone!

      Finally, an organ is supposed to be quite literally part of the room in which it is played. So a good installer will arrange the speakers so that the sound is coupled to the room, and the organ and the room interact in a manner that simply cannot be imitated electronically. This is esoteric talk, I know, but once you have heard an organ properly melded to its room, you will never again be satisfied with anything less!

      Now, that Allen 120 is of course a pretty old one, and a very small model too, so it's possible that your folks don't really have a great appreciation for it. Perhaps it doesn't really produce the sound that they associate with a good pipe organ. So I understand the interest in "improving" it by running it into a mixer. But I would certainly encourage you rather to obtain the services of a genuine organ installation professional, and get it properly interfaced with the ROOM so that you can enjoy it to its full potential. Mixing it into the house sound is NOT the solution to your problems.
      *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!



      • #4
        To add: The organist must be able to control their own sound volume!! Organist/accompanists are trained in the art of choral, vocal and/or instrumental accompaniment. Most are able to adjust their own registrations (and sound level) to suit every situation when accompanying solo instruments, or voices. The sound tech at the mixer board is listening through headphones most all the time ... that is not the TRUE sound that everyone else hears. What sound balanced to the tech in his/her headphones will always be quite different from hearing in "live" (without headphones).

        Every organ installation that I have seen, whether it is a pipe organ or a non-winded organ, has been setup for optimal sound by the installer. It will NOT sound good through PA speakers ... it will be a scratchy sound and totally void of extreme lower and high frequencies.

        Let the organist/pianist/accompanist balance the sound themselves ... please!


        • #5
          I was going to say something similar, but I never heard it expressed so eloquently as Jbird just did!
          Listen to him!
          Can't play an note but love all things "organ" Responsible for 2/10 Wurli pipe organ, Allen 3160(wife's), Allen LL324, Allen GW319EX, ADC4600, many others. E-organ shop to fund free organ lessons for kids.


          • #6
            I agree with everyone else; just say no. One additional reason that hasn't been mentioned yet is that organs are designed to have many independent channels, and mixing them electronically instead of acoustically degrades the sound in ways that no sound system can ever undo or even mitigate. For example, suppose the organ is producing two similar sounds in two of its channels, and those two sounds happen to be perfectly in phase. If mixed in an audio mixer, those two sounds will add to each other and will produce a louder combined sound. Now suppose that they happen to be perfectly out of phase. When mixed, those two sounds will exactly cancel out and make a much softer, distorted sound. Depending on the exact pitch of the two stops, they may roll in and out of phase, periodically adding and canceling as the two waveforms get added together in the mixer. This sounds absolutely horrible!

            Mixing those same two channels acoustically by sending them into the room with two separate speakers causes none of these problems. In fact, it sounds much more pleasant and is one of the reasons for the "bloom" in the sound mentioned above.


            • #7
              Is a C120 an older model? Is it the idea to get rid of the speakers? The older ones were much bigger. If so, the only thing I would say that if it uses the older style speakers NOT HC12 or HC14/15, it might benefit from an upgrade to those. But then I can't find any reference to that model here, so maybe I'm all wet!
              Can't play an note but love all things "organ" Responsible for 2/10 Wurli pipe organ, Allen 3160(wife's), Allen LL324, Allen GW319EX, ADC4600, many others. E-organ shop to fund free organ lessons for kids.


              • #8
                Must be a System 120-C. That's a MOS from mid 70's. Self contained speakers but often installed with some added monitor II cabinets or possibly even some better ones. But yes, upgrading to HC cabinets would be great. Depending on the size of the church, this particular 120 may even have been installed with extra amps, could use four or more nice HC cabinets.

                But in order to assure an optimal setup, a skilled installer needs to be involved. One can only hope that the design and acoustics of the new sanctuary are such that an organ can even be made to work. Sadly, I have been called in on the tail end of several projects, even some Lutheran churches, where a new sanctuary was already built and they they want me to now show them where to put organ speakers. When the new church is equipped with acoustical tile suspended ceilings, carpet and pew cushions, and otherwise deadened -- to be brutally honest, you aren't going to make any kind of an organ sound good in there.

                The American church is dying at the hands of architects and contractors and "sound system experts" who are constantly advising them to build these cushy padded warm and fuzzy but totally dead acoustic tombs where you can't hear somebody 10 feet away sing or speak, thus making them completely dependent upon a sound system, and condemning them to decades of lifeless "worship" that amounts to sitting there mumbling while a band or group of microphoned singers makes all the music. Yes, I'm pessimistic, but folks, this is happening all around us. And nobody seems to be speaking up.
                *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!



                • #9
                  My present church did a total refurbishment of the sanctuary over the summer of 2016. All carpeting was removed and a new floor laid and then sealed. The pews still have padding, but the natural acoustics now render almost 2 seconds of reverberation. Delightful for choral and instrumental alike.

                  My 2nd church position (1965 to 1980) always had a carpeted runner but no padded pews. The acoustic was absolutely delightful and at about 3-4 seconds. Then came the year that they added permanent pew cushions ... zapped that natural reverb time to zero.

                  My previous church (1982-2016) is so dead acoustically that it the it was almost like the would stop before you lift your fingers off the keys. High ceiling, large room, but heavy padded carpet and pew cushions.

                  I have seen all variations of this in churches when I was an Allen dealer tech in Southern California ... from the sublime to the ridiculous ... from the very dry to very wet, almost too wet.


                  • jbird604
                    jbird604 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    In the 40+ years I've been involved in the church organ business in Arkansas I've seen only a handful of truly live new churches built. Certainly the two best have been two fairly large Presbyterian churches, both of which got Allen ADC organs when I was selling. In both cases, the floor is smooth stained concrete with carpet only in the aisles, and no pew cushions. Wood, glass, stone, and smooth plaster surfaces on the walls, very high wooden ceiling. In these churches, the organ and choir, and the congregational singing, are simply incredible, beyond description. And in both, sadly, some "expert" has told them that the spoken word is not as intelligible as they want, thus a bit of padding gets installed somewhere. Not destroying the liveness, but taking out enough of it to render the room a little less wonderful.

                    A few others I can recall are decent if unremarkable. One very large 1200-seat Baptist church with a high wooden ceiling and smooth sheetrock walls, but carpet on the floor and pew cushions throughout. It's better than average and the big 3m Allen sounds pleasant, but a notch below thrilling.

                    The vast majority of new church construction here has been and continues to be of the Big Box variety. Most have "stadium seating" with deeply padded seats or even theater seats. Few have real pews, just padded chairs of one kind or another. Carpet is everywhere, even on seat backs. All have suspended acoustical tile ceilings, way up there, but contributing nothing to the reflection or distribution of sound. The walls are at least partly covered with acoustical padding to dampen any reflections.

                    Needless to say, most such churches going up nowadays don't even put in an organ. Those built 30 years ago were still putting in an organ, but it was hopelessly crippled. Without any natural reverberation or sustain, the finest organ in the world will sound like a dog. And these "worship spaces" were nearly all built with no concept of what it takes to fit an organ to the room. Sometimes the console is located such that the organist can't even hear the organ without putting on headphones and has to trust that the "sound engineer" back in a sealed booth or even off in some other building is properly "mixing" the sound in the room. This is absolutely appalling. Beyond belief, but it is really happening.

                    As long as this nonsense goes on, we will have very few interesting organs installed, and people will continue to think that the organs they do hear in the horribly flawed 1980's and 1990's stadiums sound horrific and they are glad their "new" church doesn't even have one.